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A commemorative t-shirt is displayed for sale at the Botana Care marijuana store just before opening the doors to customers for the first time in Northglenn, Colorado January 1, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking A commemorative t-shirt is displayed for sale at the Botana Care marijuana store just before opening the doors to customers for the first time in Northglenn, Colorado January 1, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking  

Colorado OKs withdrawing welfare benefits at pot shop ATMs

Food stamp recipients can use their benefits cards at ATMs located inside Colorado’s pot stores, after a bill to prevent it died in committee this week.

Republican state Sen. Vicki Marble introduced the bill to prevent welfare recipients from using the cards in retail marijuana stores and in strip clubs. She said it was a means of ensuring that tax money isn’t being used for pot, but also to align the regulations at pot stores with those at liquor stores.

She said such transactions at pot stores could bring unwanted attention from the federal government.

“I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing trouble that we’re not ready to deal with,” Marble is quoted as saying by Colorado Community Media. “We’re setting these newly established marijuana stores up to fail.”

Republican state Sen. Bernie Herpin also supported the bill to keep public money from being spent on pot.

“I just don’t understand,” he said, “People who are using their food stamp money to buy marijuana — why we should be making it easier for them?”

But Democrats, who control both chambers of the Colorado state legislature, killed the bill after arguing that it was unnecessary and that Marble’s fears are overblown.

They also cited concerns that some benefits recipients might not live near other ATMs to withdraw cash for food and other needs, requiring them to use the cards at pot stores, for example.

“I’m not comfortable limiting that access until I’m certain we’ve done that due diligence to make sure people can access their benefits when they need to,” Democratic state Sen. Irene Aguilar is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The same argument was used to kill a bill during the last session regarding using ATMs in strip clubs. Regulations currently prevent the cards’ use in casinos, liquor stores, bingo parlors and gun stores.

The pot store/strip club loophole remained open when Marble’s bill was voted down, 3-2 along party lines.

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